Reptiles and Amphibians
There are 31 different species of reptiles and amphibians in Algonquin Provincial Park. Among the reptiles are five species of turtles, and nine species of snakes (none are venomous). The amphibians include seven species of salamanders, and ten species of frogs and toads.
Because reptiles and amphibians are "cold-blooded", that is they lack the ability to produce enough heat within their own bodies to keep themselves warm, only those species that are able to hibernate successfully through Algonquin's long, freezing winters can survive here. As a result, the diversity of reptiles and amphibians in Algonquin is much less than in warmer areas farther to the south. For example, there are over 40 species of reptiles and amphibians native to the Lake Erie shoreline just a few hours southwest of Algonquin!
Although Algonquin may not host a huge diversity of reptiles and amphibians, the Park is, nonetheless, extremely important to them, and may very well become much more important as the years go by. The fact is that the environments of southern Ontario have been drastically altered in the last century and a half. With the clearing of forests, the drainage of marshes, and the pollution of streams, many reptiles and amphibians have become quite rare or have disappeared entirely from huge areas of their former ranges. In addition, road traffic, unreasonable human fear (especially of snakes), and commercial exploitation of frogs and turtles have all combined against reptiles and amphibians in many parts of our province (and in many parts of the world!). Algonquin stands as a notable exception to this unfortunate trend and gives promise that here at least, these creatures will continue to live as they have for thousands of years. Already we have reason to believe that the Wood Turtles in Algonquin may be one of the last significant populations in Ontario.
The Painted Turtle, one of Algonquin's two common turtles, is often overlooked by many Park visitors. This seemingly inconsequential animal has been the subject of one of the longest running turtle projects in the world - right here in Algonquin. Facing many challenges the Painted Turtle has survived for millions of years, and we are only beginning to understand the complexities of this fascinating creature. To further investigate the fascinating life history and ecology of the Painted Turtle, explore The Science Behind Algonquin's Animals, which focuses of wildlife research in Algonquin Park.
More information about Algonquin's reptiles and amphibians can be found in Reptiles and Amphibians of Algonquin Provincial Park. This book, as well as many others, is published by The Friends of Algonquin Park and can be ordered from The Friends or bought at various locations within the Park.